But this March, driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco with my head out the window like a golden retriever completing his end-of-life bucket list, I set aside my East Coast identity to embrace the wonder that is California … that is, once you sweep away the clutter of atheleisure, vagina-tightening procedures and the myth of having to smile more.
The truth is simple: California’s coast is a visually stunning place to drink and eat.
Do you like tacos? Do you like doughnuts? Do you like wine? Do you like avocados? If you answer “yes” to at least three of these questions, you should begin plotting your California escape — just make sure to pack your anti-nausea medication because the roads can be windy and up-and-downy.
WHERE TO EAT DOUGHNUTS
A 24-hour doughnut shop (being open at all hours should be legally required of all doughnut shops) that makes some of the most delicious, cakiest, fluffiest doughnuts in the state. Go for the maple iced ones … or the old-fashioned, chocolate glazed ones … or better yet, get one of each and pretend you’re having people over.
3855 Telegraph Rd.
Ventura, CA 93003
Phone: 805 644 6778
WHERE TO DRINK WINE
For $5, you can sip five generous pours of wines from as close as one mile away, or travel all around the state with reds from San Simeon and whites from Adelaida and even some palatable sweet wines, if you’re in the mood.
2306 Main Street
Cambria, CA 9328
Phone: (805) 927.7141
Tucked away in the Russian River Valley, this idyllic winery, snackery and upscale rec room is the ideal place to enjoy a sunny NorCal day… or shelter from the more probably rain, popping truffled popcorn and sipping excellent pinot noir from the comfort of cozy chairs.
3909 Frei Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
WHERE TO PARK YOUR CAR, GO OUTSIDE, WIPE THE DROOL OFF YOURSELF, TAKE PHOTOS AND SIMPLY WEEP AT THE SPLENDOR
Literally any point along Big Sur.
WHERE TO EAT TACOS
If you miss the fish tacos here, you’re making the biggest mistake of your life.
622 N Milpas St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Phone: (805) 963-4940
Order the al pastor tacos. Eight of them. You’re going to need every last one.
1420 Spring St.
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 239-8525
WHERE TO GET TIPSY
First, let go of this idea that you can’t enjoy something that’s been featured in a guide book or has a kitschy vibe, then make your way to this historic North Beach bar haunted by the ghosts of literary giants like Jack Karouac. But its not all vibes: the cocktails are objectively delicious (the Dark and Stormy is essential), and the space is eclectic, cozy and so low-key that you can’t tell who’s a local and who’s a tourist.
255 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
WHERE TO EAT JUST REALLY, REALLY DAMN WELL
If you don’t like garlic, you can find something perfectly delicious nice to eat here … but you’re missing out. The rosticceria, true to its name, serves superb roasted chicken (get the garlic rubbed one) and seafood, plus specials revolving around what’s in season or what goes well with garlic. We’re not messing around.
2621 41st Ave
Soquel, CA 95073
This may be obvious, yes, but our worst nightmare is not including this in the round-up and someone missing out on the glory that is an Animal-Style burger as well as two orders of fries because you’re on vacation and you’ll never be as svelte as Californians anyway.
Literally everywhere along Route 101, Route 1
—Maria Yagoda, @mariayagoda